IN THE Manchu War of 1636, the people of Seoul rushed off in crowds to make their escape. One party of them came suddenly upon a great force of the enemy, armed and mounted. The hills and valleys seemed full of them, and there was no possible way of escape. What to do they knew not. In the midst of their perplexity they suddenly saw some one sitting peacefully in the main roadway just in front, underneath a pine tree, quite unconcerned. He had dismounted from his horse, which a servant held, standing close by. A screen of several yards of cotton cloth was hanging up just before him, as if to shield him from the dust of the passing army.
The people who were making their escape came up to this stranger, and said imploringly, "We are all doomed to die. What shall we do?"
The mysterious stranger said, "Why should you die? and why are you so frightened? Sit down by me and see the barbarians go by."
The people, perceiving his mind so composed and his appearance devoid of fear, and they having no way of escape, did as he bade them and sat down.
The cavalry of the enemy moved by in great numbers, killing every one they met, not a single person escaping; but when they reached the place where the magician sat, they went by without, apparently, seeing anything. Thus they continued till the evening, when all had passed by. The stranger and the people with him sat the day through without any harm overtaking them, even though they were in the midst of the enemy's camp, as it were.
At last awaking to the fact that he was possessor of some wonderful magic, they all with one accord came and bowed before him, asking his name and his place of residence. He made no answer, however, but mounted his beautiful horse and rode swiftly away, no one being able to overtake him.
The day following the party fell in with a man who had been captured but had made his escape. They asked if he had seen anything special the day before. He said, "When I followed the barbarian army, passing such and such a point"--indicating the place where the magician had sat with the people--"we skirted great walls and precipitous rocks, against which no one could move, and so we passed by."
Thus were the few yards of cotton cloth metamorphosed before the eyes of the passers-by.